BUSINESSES in Scotland enjoyed much-improved access to capital for growth in the second half of 2013, a survey has found.
And confidence among finance professionals in Scotland about the prospects for their organisations rose further in the second half of last year.
The latest global economic conditions survey, published today by the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, shows that 34% of ACCA members in Scotland enjoyed increased confidence about their organisations' prospects in the second half of 2013.
In the first half of last year, 29% of ACCA members reported a rise in confidence about the prospects for their organisations.
ACCA highlighted its finding that the latest business confidence reading for Scotland was similar to that for south of the Border.
Of survey respondents throughout the UK, 43% enjoyed greater confidence about the prospects for their organisations, with only 25% citing a decline in optimism.
The survey also found that a majority of respondents in Scotland, 61%, believed that economic conditions were improving or about to do so. ACCA noted this proportion was up from 33%.
In the UK as a whole, 69% of survey respondents reported optimism about the economic recovery, with 30% pessimistic.
ACCA's Scottish operation highlighted signs from its latest survey of an increase in investment by businesses north of the Border.
Economic recovery in the UK so far, in contrast to the Coalition Government's stated intention back in March 2011 when Chancellor George Osborne presented his second Budget, has been driven mainly by an increase in consumer spending. Business investment and exports have proved much weaker than expected, with Mr Osborne's vision of "a Britain carried aloft by the march of the makers" having failed to materialise.
The latest ACCA survey picked up signals from respondents in Scotland that consumer demand and cash-flow conditions had "tightened". ACCA also cited its finding from survey respondents in Scotland that business opportunities had fallen "marginally".
But Craig Vickery, head of ACCA in Scotland, believed the overall situation was "looking good".
He was encouraged by reports from ACCA members in Scotland of a "very substantial" improvement in access to growth capital. ACCA said this improved access had triggered a "great deal" of capacity-building among businesses, in terms of investment and hiring of labour.
Mr Vickery said: "Business confidence is clearly growing and it's vital that this continues if we are to see a sustained recovery throughout 2014.
"Perhaps the biggest sign of the recovery is the increase in access to growth capital. ACCA has been calling for improved access to finance for businesses for a number of years and it's great to finally see that happening, allowing businesses to invest in their future."
He added: "It is looking good. It is looking like we have definitely got a light at the end of the tunnel."
Emmanouil Schizas, senior economic analyst at ACCA, said of the UK-widefindings: "These results suggest the UK is now on track for slower, but healthier, levels of growth. While the headline-grabbing recovery still relies on unhealthy factors, such as a renewed mortgage bubble, our findings tell us that business confidence is becoming less responsive to these and more closely aligned to business opportunities and demand."
Projecting likely UK expansion this year, based on the survey findings, he added: "Our scenario-based forecasts suggest a central estimate of 2.5% growth for 2014."
The overall findings of the latest global economic conditions survey, conducted by ACCA in conjunction with the Institute of Management Accountants, signal that confidence in the strength of the global recovery is stronger than at any time over the last five years.
Globally, 55% of respondents believed that conditions were improving or were about to do so, up from 53% in the third quarter of 2013, ACCA noted.